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 Uganda - 'gifted by nature' 
  Uganda - 'gifted by nature'  

 "For magnificence, for variety of form and color, for profusion of brilliant life - plant, bird, insect, reptile, beast - for the vast scale … Uganda is truly The Pearl of Africa." 
 Sir Winston S. Churchill. 1908

Uganda - The Pearl of Africa
Situated in the heart of Africa, astride the equator, Uganda is the land where tropical rain forest meets rolling savannah, where shimmering lakes meet snowcapped mountains, and where the mighty Nile, the longest river in the world starts its journey from Lake Victoria to the Mediterranean sea.

This paradise of East Africa is now ripe for discovery and adventure. Home to over half the world's population of the Mountain Gorillas and a host of other primate species and a wealth of other wildlife, African Buffalo, Bushbuck, Giant forest Hog, Lion, Leopard, Uganda Kob, Duiker, baboons, hippos, crocodiles African Elephant Uganda offers a unique safari experience. It is a microcosm of African wildlife and environments. It is in Uganda that you find the Rwenzoris, the fabled "Mountains of the Moon"; Murchison Falls; the Bwindi Impenetrable forest. From the naturalist point of view, this tiny nation is one of the most biologically diverse areas of Africa. With more than 1,000 species of birds, many of them characteristic of the central African rainforests, Uganda is a birder's paradise, and no where else on the continent can one see such a wide variety of primates with so little effort.

Uganda is truly a remarkable wildlife destination, and Ugandans are regarded as among the most friendly of African people.

Uganda's equatorial climate is tempered by it is elevated altitude. Much of the country is at or above 4,000 feet in elevation; you, therefore can expect to experience cool temperatures in the early mornings and following sunset. Temperatures vary somewhat according to the season, with the hottest months in January and February when temperatures may reach over 85F. The coolest months are July and August, when early morning temperatures may descend to the low 40s F.

Most of Uganda has rain through out the year, with the most rain falling in late March-May. There are two comparatively dry seasons; one is December-February, the other is June-August. In Bwindi Impenetrable forest, the elevation ranges from 6,000 to 8,000 feet, creating a lower montane rainforest habitat with a wide variation of daily temperatures. It may rain here at anytime of the day.

Until about 3,000 years ago, most of Uganda was most likely occupied by hunter- gatherers. Subsequently, between 2,000 and 3,000 years ago, Bantu speakers arrived in Uganda from West Africa. Oral tradition and archeological evidence indicates that a centralize form of government may have existed in the region south of the Nile and west of Lake Victoria as early as AD 1000. This was the kingdom of the Batembuzi, whose contemporary leaders continue to be applauded with near god status in certain parts of Uganda.

Batembuzi history is shrouded in myth and legend, but the balance of evidence suggests they were Bantu people who practiced a mixed economy and ruled for at least nine generations. The Batembuzi were succeeded by the Bachwezi. Current knowledge of East African population movement suggests that the Bachwezi were Cushitic immigrants from Ethiopia; a wide spread belief is that the Bachwezi introduced the long horned Ankole cattle (massive horned cattle) that are today so characteristic of Western Uganda. The Bachwezi ruled for only two generations.

Bachwezi rule seems to have been terminated by the arrival of the Luo speaking Nilotic from Sudan. Oral tradition suggests that the Luo leader, Rukidi, formed what became as the Babito dynasty. Rukidi adopted many aspects of the Bachwezi rituals and social structure and quickly integrated his people into the local Bantu speaking population. Several of the modern dynasties in western Uganda, including the Banyoro and Ankole trace their roots to Rukidi.

In the late 16th century, near modern day Kampala, the Buganda kingdom was established by a Bantu speaker named Kintu. Buganda oral history identifies at least 35 successive Kabaka (kings), the last of whom Kabaka Mutesa 11, died in exile in London in the 1960's, after the Buganda Kingdom was outlawed by former Prime Minister-Milton Obote. The royal line was recently reestablished when the Buganda kingdom was reinstated and the 36th kabaka, Ronald Mutebi, was crowned in 1993. Today's president Yoweri Museveni, agreed to call home the King of Buganda, who continues as a titular leader of the Buganda kingdom.

From 1600 to relatively recent times, regional politics have been dominated by territorial rivalry between the Baganda, the Banyoro and the Ankole.

Arab slave traders arrived in Uganda in the mid-19th century. Buganda was by then the most important kingdom and was ruled by kabaka Mutesa who allowed slave traders to operate from his capital and collaborated with them to help organize slave-raiding parties. The Muslim traders converted several Baganda clan chiefs to their faith. When the Arabs were joined by two rival missionary factions- French Catholics and British Protestants, both of which attracted further clan chiefs away from traditional beliefs, Mutesa's was angered by this and it led to the massacre of both the Christian and Muslim followers.

Uganda was colonized by the British and became a British protectorate in 1892. The Uganda modern shape was less decided by the Ugandan Agreement of 1900, which effectively put the country under joint British-Buganda rule. The colonial government formed centralized legislative and executive councils, while Buganda officials were appointed to regional posts.

The Buganda Agreement antagonized non- Baganda leaders. Banyoro leaders refused to cooperate with the Baganda officials, who were driven out of Bunyoro. After British intervention, the Baganda officials were reinstated. Few Europeans settled in the country, but Asian settlement was encouraged and this small Asian community soon dominated the economy. Between the two world wars, non-Baganda leaders put increasing pressure on the colonial administration to end Bagandan dominance. Tensions between Britain and Buganda led to the temporary expulsion of Kabaka Mutesa 11 in 1953. Mutesa returned to Uganda after a new agreement was created in 1955. In theory this agreement was meant to curb Buganda powers, but in practice it merely created a greater centralization by allowing Mutesa to form his own government. Several new nationalist parties emerged in protest and Britain was forced to succumb to the growing pressure for independence. The 1962, general elections were won by Milton Obote and full independence was granted to Uganda October 9, 1962.

The original idea for post independence Uganda was for a central elected body to legislate national affairs. The traditional Kingdoms would still be recognized and their kings would retain a certain amount of autonomy regarding local issues. Buganda Bunyoro rivalries, as well as accusations of corruption and theft ultimately convinced Obote to order the abolishment of all the kingdoms in 1966. His army led by Ida Amin, stormed the Kabaka's palace and forced him into exile. Subsequently Obote became reliant on force to maintain a semblance of stability. In January 1971, while Obote was out of the country attending a Commonwealth Conference, the commander of the army, Idi Amin, staged a military coup and declared himself president for life.

Uganda's recent political history is well documented. In 1972, Amin forced foreign-owned businesses to close and expelled all Asians from the country, "Africanized" their businesses, and commandeered their money and possessions for "state" use. This action proved to be an economic disaster. Having destroyed the countries economy, Amin began a reign of terror over the people of Uganda. As Amin's unpopularity grew, he attempted to form a national unity by declaring war on neighboring Tanzania. Tanzania retaliated by invading Uganda, meeting with little resistance. To the joy of most Ugandans, Amin was forced into exile in April of 1979.

After a couple of short-lived coalition governments, supervised by Tanzania, an election was held in 1980 and Obote was returned to power. Obote introduced economic policies, which were mildly successful, but otherwise he continued using the same strong-arm tactics of Amin. In 1982, the National Resistance Movement (NRM), an army led by Yoweri Museveni declared war on Obote government. The country was plunged into a full-scale civil war and in August 1985, Obote was again knocked out of power by a military coup. Finally, in January 1986, the MRM swept into the capital and Museveni was sworn in as president.

Museveni encouraged the return of Asians and on the economic front encouraged investment and tourism.

Uganda's population is approximately 26 million. It is made up of a complex and diverse range of tribes. Lake Kyoga forms the Northern boundary for the Bantu speaking people who dominate much of East, central and southern and western Uganda, this include the Bagisu, Basoga, Baganda, Banyankole, Batoro, Bakiga, Banyoro and many other small ethnic tribes. In the North live the Nilotics (Acholi, Langi, Madi., Lugbara. To the North East are the Teso and the Karimojong who are related to the Masaai. Pygmies live in the forests of the west.

The Ugandan population is a union of many peoples and therefore cultures are as diverse as the tribes.

Around the country are monuments to Ugandas eventful past- forts, tombs, sites of battles as well as interesting houses and churches. The Kasubi tombs in Kampala rank among the best monuments of Uganda- the historic resting place of the Kabakas of Buganda is a fine example of the traditional skills and craftsmanship of the Baganda in building and architecture.

The official language is English, which most people can speak. The other major languages are Luganda and Swahili, although the latter isn't spoken much in Kampala.




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